23 September 2023

Review: THE BLOOD TIDE, Neil Lancaster

  •  this edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • #2 in the D.S. Craigie series
  •  Publication date ‏ : ‎ February 23, 2022

Synopsis (publisher)

You get away with murder.
In a remote sea loch on the west coast of Scotland, a fisherman vanishes without trace. His remains are never found.

You make people disappear.
A young man jumps from a bridge in Glasgow and falls to his death in the water below. DS Max Craigie uncovers evidence that links both victims. But if he can’t find out what cost them their lives, it won’t be long before more bodies turn up at the morgue…

You come back for revenge.
Soon cracks start to appear in the investigation, and Max’s past hurtles back to haunt him. When his loved ones are threatened, he faces a terrifying choice: let the only man he ever feared walk free, or watch his closest friend die… 

My Take

This truly is a sequel to #1 in the series. Issues unresolved earlier eventually come to a satisfying end as Max pursues his mission to deal with corruption in the Scottish police force. 

Very satisfying read.

My rating: 4.7

I have already read

4.7, DEAD MAN'S GRAVE, - DS Craigie #1

Review: THE MISTAKE, K.L. Slater

  •  this edition published 2019 by Sphere
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-7493-7
  • 360 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

 You think you know the truth about the people you love.

But one discovery can change everything…

Eight-year-old Billy goes missing one day, out flying his kite with his sister Rose. Two days later, he is found dead.

Sixteen years on, Rose still blames herself for Billy’s death. How could she have failed to protect her little brother?

Rose has never fully recovered from the trauma, and one of the few people she trusts is her neighbour Ronnie, who she has known all her life. But one day Ronnie falls ill, and Rose goes next door to help him… and what she finds in his attic room turns her world upside down.

Rose thought she knew the truth about what happened to Billy. She thought she knew her neighbour. Now the only thing she knows is that she is in danger… 

My Take

Rose has always blamed herself her little brother's death. She is convinced that if she hadn't brought Gareth into her family's lives then Billy would never have been have been under threat, he wouldn't have disappeared, and he wouldn't have died.

For 16 years Rose has blamed herself and dealt with the consequences of her actions. And now everything she believes is being challenged and she feels she must face Gareth to find out the truth.

And there is a twist at the end, cleverly done, unexpected, you mustn't miss it.

I will be reading more by this author.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

K.L. Slater is the number one bestselling author of fifteen psychological crime thrillers. She has sold over two million copies of her books worldwide. She has also written four Carnegie-nominated Young Adult novels as Kim Slater for Macmillan Children's Books. Kim has an MA in Creative Writing and lives with her husband in Nottingham, England.

Author website: www.KLSlaterAuthor.com
Twitter: @KimLSlater
Facebook: KL Slater Author

Review: THE CARNIVAL IS OVER, Greg Woodland

  • This edition published by Text Publishing Australia 2022
  • ISBN 9781922458698
  • 403 pages 
  • Shortlisted, Best Crime Fiction, Ned Kelly Awards, 2023
 Synopsis (publisher)

1971—Hal is seventeen, with dreams of escaping from Moorabool to a life in the city. But right now he’s on a good behaviour bond and stuck in a job he hates, paying off the car he ‘borrowed’ and crashed. Hal’s packing-room job makes him a target for workplace bullies and the friendship of the older, more worldly Christine is all that makes each day bearable. So when she doesn’t turn up for work, he’s on the alert.

So is Sergeant Mick Goodenough. But he already knows what’s happened to Christine: the same thing that happened to the newly elected deputy mayor. When another gruesome ‘accident’ occurs in Moorabool, Goodenough suspects there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes at the abattoir.

Mick and Hal are both determined to dig up the truth. Before long each of them is going to find himself in mortal danger and running for his life. 

My Take

As with the first novel in this series I was struck by the similarity in style and setting to Garry Disher novels. It highlights the problems of growing up in Australian rural towns, as well as the problems and limitations of rural economies in Australia in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The novel is set five years after the earlier one, and shares some of the same characters.

Characters are well drawn and the scenarios believable.

My Rating: 4.6

I've also read 4.6, THE NIGHT WHISTLER

14 September 2023

Review: THE HONEYMOON, Kate Gray

  • This edition published by Welbeck Fiction 2023
  • ISBN 978-1-80279-373-4
  • 406 pages

Two British couples on honeymoon meet in Bali and seem to hit it off at once. But on the night before they leave a man is killed and everything changes.

My Take

Once they get back to England neither couple seems to be able to forget the death in Bali. One couple was actively involved in the death, while the wife in the second couple is a journalist and she cannot help thinking that here is a story she can exploit.

Both couples have secrets that we have not been aware of before their arrival back home.
A very interestingly constructed book which results in a real page turner.

My rating: 4.7

10 September 2023

Review: DARK MODE, Ashley Kalagian Blunt

 Again another brief “review”.

This is a very dark story focussing on the dark web, which so few of us know anything about.

Reagan Carson, plant shop owner, has managed to keep most of her life offline, or so she thinks. Ten years ago she had a bad experience with a stalker who also just happened to be a policeman. So she has focussed on using the internet as little as possible and has avoided social media.

 But now out jogging in the early morning in Sydney she has stumbled across a murder victim who looks just like her. Similar murders occur and she becomes paranoid that they have been perpetrated by her former stalker. She avoids talking to the police but then starts to get nasty emails. She has a car accident and forms a friendship with a man who seems to be just what she needs.

A really harrowing story.

My rating: 4.7

Review: THE COACH BOMBER, G.R. Jordan

 Once again apologies for the brevity of this”review”. I am still reduced to writing posts on my iPad but hopefully will have a new computer in a day or so.

This is the 14th book in this series.

 When an airport bus is blown apart on the main road out of Inverness, DI Macleod finds a press backlash when they name their own suspect. With the undercurrent of an ongoing drug war upping the ante, Macleod must rely on his Sergeant Hope McGrath to infiltrate the organisations and help bring the real killer to the light.

Don’t miss your stop on the way to boomtown! ‘

I felt this book brought a grittier dimension to the story. A gangland boss is amongst the 30 or so dead after a bomb explodes on a coach near the airport at Inverness. At first the fear is that this is the start of a war between rival gangs, but Macleod dismisses this theory when the head of a rival gang protests that it has nothing to do with him.

Macleod’s new DS Urqhart who was added to the team in the 13th title because of her knowledge of antiques becomes a surprise package because of her ability to meet violence with violence.

When the series first started I thought it bordered on the cozies but now the titles are getting much closer to thrillers. In each too there is an element of surprise.

My rating: 4.5

5 September 2023

Review: CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS, Agatha Christie

This book was first published in 1959 and is basically set in a girls school in England although part of the plot stems from a middle Eastern country with a young progressive leader. An insurrection results in the young man sending an item to England but unfortunately he doesn’t make it back there himself.

I am reading the book for discussion with my U3A Agatha Christie reading group. We have a month to read the book, copies provided for everyone by our local library. We spend about an hour or so discussing what they, a group of 12, have thought of the book. We have been fortunate enough this year to have library also able to supply a video of a tv version of the story, so we watch that after our discussion.

Meadowbank is a very prestigious girls school suddenly struck by murders of 3 of its mistresses. The first half of the book gives us the main story and then it becomes a Poirot investigation.

I am looking forward to our discussion.

A good read.

My rating: 4.4

Review: DON’T BELIEVE IT, Charlie Donlea

 This is the second book that I’ve read by this author and I’m certainly on the alert for me.

Grace Sebold was convicted 10 years ago by a local jury of the murder of her boyfriend at Sugar Beach. 

Filmmaker Sidney Ryan makes the case the focal point of a 10 week true crime television series which goes over all known evidence and investigates things with new intensity. The television audience gets the impression that they are learning things almost as the investigator discovers them. 

The tv series is immensely popular, increasingly in the size of the audience with each episode. And just as you think Grace’s innocence has been proved, new accusations come to light.

Really a roller coaster ride.

My rating: 4.8

Review: FAIR MARKET VALUE, G. R. Jordan

 With my computer still out of order, I am reduced to writing very basic reviews, but I don’t want to get any more than I need to.

This the 13th in the Highlands and Islands and Detectives series which I am really enjoying. I encourage you to read the books in order so you get the full background and character development. Each book has a different setting in the Highlands and Islands and different issues are raised.

What we see in this one is a change in the team headed by Detective Inspector Seoras Macleod. DC Stewart has left and the team is missing her diligence and tough work. This time an auctioneer north of Inverness has been beaten to death with his gavel. Macleod is convinced the central clue must be related to an item that was sold during the auction the day before. He is also aware that that his team is in desperate need of an expert in ancient artifacts which is what was in the auction.  And so he adds a new woman to the team with that she might join permanently. Macleod is almost offended when he finds out what the item was.

My rating: 4.5

24 August 2023

Review: THE NOWHERE CHILD, Christian White

 Once again I am using my iPad to record this review so I am hoping that I will eventually be able to update this review so it looks more like my usual format.

I originally read this soon after its original publication in 2019. My earlier review can be located in this blog if you search for it. I have re-read it as part of the list of books we are tackling with my U3A Crime Fiction group. I must confess that I seem to have enjoyed it more this time around, certainly my rating is just a tad higher.

Originally I read it on my kindle as a pre-publication preview from Net Galley. This time I have read it as a hard copy from my local library. Perhaps in e-book format I read it too quickly to appreciate things that I enjoyed this time. 

This was Christian White’s debut title. The theme is an unusual one - an abducted child identified 30 years later by her older brother who has been searching for her almost all his life. The format is unusual in that there are two time frames, current time, and the time the two year old disappeared. And there are really two narrators - Kim/Sammy who was abducted, and then third party narration that tells the main story. 

True to form, I remembered clearly the first part of the book, and then I’d forgotten how the plot resolved. 

So what questions am I going to pose for my U3A readers?

  • First of all, the standard ones: did they enjoy the story? What did they like most? What least?
  • How plausible did they find the story? What questions did the author pose in his plot?
  • What parts of the plot stood out for them? Which characters?
  • Was everybody happy when Stu managed to eventually track his little sister down? Who wasn’t?
  • Does it feel like an Australian novel? Why so? Or why not? In other words, if you didn’t know the author was an Australian what clues are there to his nationality?
  • The author uses some really creepy settings. How effective were they?
  • Was Dean wise in returning to the USA? 
  • Did the ending take them by surprise? What strands of the plot had they worked out?
My rating: 4.6

22 August 2023

Review: THE JADE LILY, Kirsty Manning

 My desktop computer is not behaving tonight,  so I'm not able to use my usual review format. Hopefully I  will be able to bring this review up to date later.

Just for now I want to record that I've finished reading this book as an ebook on Libby, by a new to me author, whom I will certainly follow up.

It is mystery rather than my usual crime fiction. It spans at least 7 decades, and world events as they affected a Jewish family forced out of Austria by Hitler. They emigrated to Shanghai and finally the war caught up with them again.

The story begins with Alexandra who is returning to Australia from  London. She knows she is of German and Chinese heritage but mystery surrounds her mother's parentage. She returns to Melbourne where her grandfather is dying, taking many secrets with him.  Alexandra has won a job in Shanghai and her grandmother encourages her to take the job and to do some family history research for herself while she is there.

So this story is told mainly on two narrative stages, and eventually the reader is able to sort out the links. The story is beautifully told and we share the dilemmas each character is faced with, and the choices they made. There are many signs of extensive research by the author.

Highly recommended. 

My rating: 4.7

19 August 2023

Review: THE WOMAN IN DARKNESS, Charlie Donlea

  • this edition published by Penguin Australia 2019
  • made available by my local library
  • ISBN 978-0-14379-515-5
  • 291 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Charlie Donlea's chilling new suspense thriller is the story of two women, separated by forty years, yet both inextricably linked by a series of horrific murders that took place in 1979.

"She wondered if the mysterious woman had chosen darkness. Or if darkness had chosen her."

As a forensic reconstructionist, Rory Moore sheds light on cold-case homicides by piecing together details others fail to see. And while cleaning out her late father’s law office, she takes a call that plunges her into a forty-year-old mystery.

In the summer of 1979, five Chicago women went missing. The predator, nicknamed The Thief, left no bodies and no clues behind - until police received a package from a mysterious woman named Angela Mitchell, which uncovered his identity. But before police could question her, Angela disappeared.

Forty years later, The Thief is about to be paroled for Angela’s murder – the only killing the DA could pin on him. But a cryptic file found in her father’s office suggests to Rory there is more to the case than anyone knew.

Soon Rory is helplessly entangled in the enigma of Angela Mitchell and what happened to her. Drawing connections between the past and present, she uncovers dark truths about the reclusive woman, her own father, and the man called The Thief.

But not even Rory is prepared for the terrifying secrets about to emerge…

My Take

When Rory Moore's father dies she is surprised to learn that for the last 40 years he has been providing services for The Thief, suspected of being a serial killer. Now The Thief is about to be paroled, 20 years early, and Rory's father was to have managed the conditions of his release. He appears to be a reformed character, but is he?

He was convicted of killing his wife but no body has ever been found, and it is only his wife's investigations that link Thomas Mitchell to the other deaths. 

Rory is drawn into investigating what happened to Angela Miller, and her research reveals some surprises.

This novel leads down some surprising paths: a very engaging read.

This certainly won't be the last book I read by this author.

(BTW I was surprised to find that the author is male)

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Charlie Donlea is a USA Today bestselling author who has been praised as a 'bold new writer…on his way to becoming a major figure in the world of suspense' (Publishers Weekly). He was born and raised in Chicago, where he continues to live with his wife and two young children. He is the author of Summit Lake, The Girl Who Was Taken, Don't Believe It, The Woman in Darkness (published elsewhere as Some Choose Darkness) and The Suicide House.

18 August 2023


  • This title available through Amazon on Kindle
  • WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries Book 8
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C5FD1P1Z
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Four Tails Publishing Ltd. (July 24, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 309 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)


The women of the WISE Enquiries Agency should be enjoying the early summer with their loved ones, but find themselves facing a truly baffling case: a mysterious figure has been spotted in Anwen-by-Wye, heralding tragedy. Nerves in the village are frayed, and the skills of all four of our private investigators are needed to work out what’s going on – aided by Althea, dowager duchess of Chellingworth, of course.

When death strikes far too close to home for our beloved enquiry agents the stakes are raised in what has become a fatal game of cat and mouse…revealing dark secrets hidden by a person everybody thought they knew.

Meanwhile, Mavis finds an investigation into a suspicious nurse to be something of a threat to her own health and wellbeing, and the duke and duchess are busy organizing projects designed to help revitalize the Chellingworth Estate, though their proposals aren’t viewed favorably by all. Also - snatching time as a couple when they can - Annie and Tudor are considering their future, as are Christine and Alexander…though in different ways, and with some surprising outcomes.

The eighth book in this series presents the WISE women with challenges of both a professional and personal nature they’ve never faced before; join them to find out how they fare.

My Take

If you are new to this series, then make sure you start from the beginning so that you get plot and cast development.

The Chellingworth Estate has big plans for the village of Anwen-by-Wye. Meanwhile the WISE women take on a number of cases, both paid and unpaid, some interesting scenarios.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


Review: THE LONG WEEKEND, Judy Nunn

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Published: 1 November 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143778370
  • Imprint: William Heinemann Australia
  • Pages: 304

Synopsis (publisher)

Six short stories from Australia’s master storyteller Judy Nunn.

The Long Weekend 
Eve, Jet, Mel and Danielle are looking forward – if a little nervously - to their upcoming digital detox. No phones, no laptops – just a quiet weekend in a remote mountain shack. What could go wrong?

The Wardrobe
When journalist Nancy buys a rundown terrace house she knows nothing about the previous owner - until a discovery in an old wardrobe reveals the lives, loves and losses in the world of Emily Roper.

The Otto Bin Empire: Clive's Story
To the homeless men and women who gather near the docks, the newly arrived Clive cuts an enigmatic figure. ‘I’m just a bloke going through a period of adjustment,’ he tells himself, ‘I’ll be back on my feet soon . . .’

As she celebrates her sixty-fifth birthday, actor turned film producer Jackie looks back on her seven decades – and all the many changes in her life. Not least the most recent and most surprising one of all . . .

The House on Hill Street
It was such a respectable address - the perfect home for Professor Jameson and his family. But the neighbours are becoming concerned. Eileen Jameson and the boys haven't been seen for quite some time...

Just South of Rome
On her way to England, actor Jane Prescott makes a quick stopover in Italy. When she stumbles upon the Hotel Visconti, a grand eighteenth-century villa, she has no idea that it will change her life.

My Take

These stories are very different, mostly almost novellas, a couple of them could be classified as crime fiction, their plots a little macabre. At the end of each story the author describes what led her to write the story. In some cases, a scenario that has stuck in the author's mind for a long time.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Judy Nunn’s career has been long, illustrious and multifaceted. After combining her internationally successful acting career with scriptwriting for television and radio, Judy decided in the 90s to turn her hand to prose.

Her first three novels, The Glitter Game, Centre Stage and Araluen, set respectively in the worlds of television, theatre and film, became instant bestsellers, and the rest is history, quite literally in fact. She has since developed a love of writing Australian historically-based fiction and her fame as a novelist has spread rapidly throughout Europe where she has been published in English, German, French, Dutch, Czech and Spanish.

Her subsequent bestsellers, Kal, Beneath the Southern Cross, Territory, Pacific, Heritage, Floodtide, Maralinga, Tiger Men, Elianne, Spirits of the Ghan, Sanctuary, Khaki Town and Showtime! confirmed Judy’s position as one of Australia’s leading fiction writers. She has now sold over one million books in Australia alone.

In 2015 Judy was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her "significant service to the performing arts as a scriptwriter and actor of stage and screen, and to literature as an author". 

12 August 2023

Review: DIRT TOWN, Hayley Scrivenor

Synopsis (Publisher)

My best friend wore her name, Esther, like a queen wearing her crown at a jaunty angle. We were twelve years old when she went missing.

On a sweltering Friday afternoon in Durton, best friends Ronnie and Esther leave school together. Esther never makes it home.

Ronnie's going to find her, she has a plan. Lewis will help. Their friend can't be gone, Ronnie won't believe it.

Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels can believe it. She has seen what people are capable of. She knows more than anyone how, in a moment of weakness, a person can be driven to do something they never thought possible.

Lewis can believe it too. But he can't reveal what he saw that afternoon at the creek without exposing his own secret.

Five days later, Esther's buried body is discovered.

What do we owe the girl who isn't there?

Character-rich and propulsive, with a breathtakingly original use of voice and revolving points of view, Dirt Town delves under the surface, where no one can hide. With emotional depth and sensitivity, this stunning debut shows us how much each person matters in a community that is at once falling apart and coming together.

Esther will always be a Dirt Town child, as we are its children, still.

My Take

There is a lot going on in this book, very complex plotting, more than just a missing child. Very carefully layered story, overlapping (and challenging) time frames. Lots of secrets too, and things that the "town" knows, but that the investigating police don't necessarily. Even the police investigators have their own secrets.

The narrative is told through several points of view, and so taking notice at the beginning of each chapter of the date and identity of the narrator is important right from the beginning to the reader's understanding and appreciation. The multi-dimensional structure of the book is demanding of the reader. It is a book that requires a high level of concentration.

Highly recommended!

My rating: 4.7



About the author

Hayley Scrivenor is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. Originally from a small country town, Hayley now lives and writes on Dharawal country and has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong on the south coast of New South Wales. Dirt Town is her first novel. An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award.


  • This edition available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C95MGQKC
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Grey Cells Press (August 1, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 305 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

    A woman finds out that Pilates class can be very dangerous.
    A man wakes up in a hospital bed, nearly dead from poison, and with no memory of how he got there.
    An Uber ride turns into a tragic last trip.
    A conflict between a professor and his student turns deadly.
    A woman on the run finds out that her past is catching up with her.
    A winning lottery ticket turns out to be anything but lucky.

These and more suspenseful flash fiction crime stories show that murder can happen anywhere: at home, at work, at school, at the gym, and even during the holiday season. No place is really safe, and no-one can really be trusted.  

My Take

I have been reading Margot Kinberg's flash fiction for years now. I belong to Margot's mailing list and she sends ne book reviews and the occasional flash fiction.

This latest publication is a collection of 70 of her flash fiction stories, "all of them stories of crime, mostly murder." Most of these I hadn't read before, and despite Margot's recommendations that I should "feel free to dip in and out", I have read them all in the last 2 or 3 days. Delicious!

Do learn more about Margot here and subscribe to her newsletter/blog.

Margot is also the author of several novel, also available on Kindle. see the list below.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

6 August 2023

Review: DEAD MAN'S GRAVE, Neil Lancaster

  • this edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • ISBN 10: 0008527733
  • Imprint: HQ Fiction GB
  • On Sale: 13/04/2022
  • Pages: 400
  • #1 in the DS Max Craigie Scottish Crime series

Synopsis (publisher)

This grave can never be opened.
The head of Scotland’s most powerful crime family is brutally murdered, his body dumped inside an ancient grave in a remote cemetery.
This murder can never be forgotten.
Detectives Max Craigie and Janie Calder arrive at the scene, a small town where everyone has secrets to hide. They soon realise this murder is part of a blood feud between two Scottish families that stretches back to the 1800s. One thing’s for certain: it might be the latest killing, but it won’t be the last…
This killer can never be caught.
As the body count rises, the investigation uncovers large-scale corruption at the heart of the Scottish Police Service. Now Max and Janie must turn against their closest colleagues – to solve a case that could cost them far more than just their lives…

My Take

Max Craigie has recently arrived in Scotland from London after the shooting of a suspect. He is teamed up with Janie Calder, unpopular because she has been accelerated through the force and is thought to be  a bit "odd". Initially they are trying to track down the elderly head of a crime family who has gone missing and they eventually discover his body in a grave in a remote northern cemetery. 

They actually have no difficulty in discovering who murdered the old man, but the reason he gives seems a bit fanciful. It seems there is a blood feud going back two centuries. The old man's son has succeeded his father as the head of the family, and is most unwilling to let matters rest.

The blurbs on this book from well known crime writers praise this as a novel that tells us how police departments work. It is certainly thorough and detailed. Max Craigie comes over as a bit of a rogue cop, but, in his own words, he has come into the police force to wear a "white" hat and he wants to stamp out corruption wherever it exists, And it seems there is plenty to be found in the Scottish Police Service.

There is another book in the series, THE BLOOD TIDE, which I will try.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

NEIL LANCASTER is the No. 1 digital bestselling author of both the Tom Novak and Max Craigie series. His first Craigie novel, Dead Man’s Grave, was longlisted for the 2021 McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year. The second Craigie novel, The Blood Tide, topped several ebook and audio charts. It was also longlisted for the 2022 McIlvanney Prize and shortlisted for Best New Series at the Dead Good Reader Awards.

Neil served as a military policeman and worked for the Metropolitan Police as a detective, investigating serious crimes in the capital and beyond. As a covert policing specialist, he used all manner of techniques to investigate and disrupt major crime and criminals. He now lives in the Scottish Highlands, writes crime and thriller novels and works as a broadcaster and commentator on true crime documentaries. He is an expert on two Sky Crime TV series, Meet, Marry, Murder and Made for Murder.
Twitter: www.twitter.com/@neillancaster66 

Review: THE JANES, Louisa Luna

  • This edition published 2020 by Text Publishing Company Australia
  • provided by my local library
  • ISBN 9781922268496
  • 356 pages
  • #2 in the Alice Vega series

Synopsis (publisher)

‘Men pretty much have a triangle. Sex, drugs, money,’ she said, drawing a triangle in the air with her finger. ‘Every man who commits a criminal act does it in service to one or more of those three things…Most men, actually, do everything because of them.’

On the outskirts of San Diego, the bodies of two young women are discovered. They are Jane Does: no names, no IDs, no families looking for them. Fearing a human trafficking ring, the police and FBI ask Alice Vega to help find out who the Janes were—and find the other missing women.

Alice Vega has a mind like a steel trap. Along with her partner Cap, she will stop at nothing to find the Janes before it is too late.

Louisa Luna is writing new, smart, insightful, relevant classics of crime fiction. Vega and Cap rightfully join the pantheon of the most memorable partnerships in crime fiction.

My Take

This is the second title in the Alice Vega series.

As a result of the first case that she solved in TWO GIRLS DOWN private investigator Alice Vega is contacted by local San Diego police and the FBI for help in identifying the bodies of two young women. Vega collaborates with the Medical Examiner to reconstruct the deaths of these two young women. She contacts ex-cop Max Caplan to work with her on the case. 

Independently young women who are part of a human trafficking ring have heard of Alice Vega and are hoping she may help them to escape their captors.

Vega has her own methods of getting people to talk, and she gradually builds a picture of what is going on. At each page you do wonder what she is going to do next, and there are many surprises which in their turn they help to build suspense and tension. Vega also has her own resources in getting background information. She and Max Caplan complement each other nicely.

A series worth tackling.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

31 July 2023

Review: TWO GIRLS DOWN, Louisa Luna

  • this edition made available by my local library
  • published by Double Day USA 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-385-542469
  • 304 pages #1 in the Alice Vega series 

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

When two young sisters, Kylie and Bailey Brandt, disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated family hires an enigmatic bounty hunter from California, Alice Vega, to do what the authorities cannot. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemics, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan, to cut through the local politics.

With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a complex web of lies, false leads, and dangerous relationships to locate both girls before time runs out and the girls are gone forever. 

My Take

This novel is the first in the Alice Vega series and covers Vega's back ground, and the creation of her partnership with former cop Max Caplan. We also learn about Vega's relationship with her "researcher" (The Bastard) and also the beginnings of the relationship between the private investigators and the police. We learn quite a lot of background about both Vega and Caplan.

Two young girls go missing from the car park while their mother is in a shopping centre. With the police, Vega and Caplan discover that the missing girls are the most recent in a number of cases. As Vega and Caplan come to terms with creating their own set of rules, between them they bring fresh eyes and strategies to following up leads.

This is a real page turner. Recommended.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.6, HIDE OUT - #3

30 July 2023

Review: MURDER AT THE WAKE, Bruce Beckham

  • This edition available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B01F7QMC8Y
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (July 3, 2016)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 275 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1533117829
  • Book 7 of 21: Detective Inspector Skelgill Investigates

Synopsis (Amazon

ONE WEEK AFTER THE DEATH of his 93-year-old twin brother, the reclusive Declan Thomas O’More is found murdered in his study at the ancestral family estate, rambling and isolated Crummock Hall. Suspicion immediately falls upon his five great nieces and nephews, who between them stand to inherit the considerable proceeds of their grandfather’s will - along with a valuable library of antiquarian books, a collection that is Declan’s lifetime work.

And yet each member of this generation - which includes a famous actor and a successful author - is apparently wealthy in their own right. Why would any of them murder their great uncle?

DI Skelgill and his team must unravel a mystery that not only harks back to the tragic drowning of the children’s parents in Crummock Water in the 1980s, but may also have its roots in the despicable Triangular Trade that enriched so many British and Irish merchant families in the eighteenth century.

My Take

Another fairly complex plot, with a bit thrown in about Skelgill's favourite past-time, fly fishing, and quite a lot of  British historical information.

There are references to a Christie-like plot with a murder taking place at a remote ancestral estate, blocked in by snow, and Skelgill arriving by helicopter.

As usual, just when you think you have this puzzle solved, you realise two things: 1) that you are only half way through the book and so what is going to occupy us for the rest of the text; and 2) the author has just thrown another line of investigation in, and are we going to have to go overr everything again?

I must admit that the final solution was not one I had seen.

A good series: but take the trouble to start from the very beginning!

My rating: 4.6

I've already read

25 July 2023

Review: HIDE OUT, Louisa Luna

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0385545533
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0385545532 
  • Number Of Pages: 368
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Doubleday (March 8, 2022)
  • Alice Vega #3

Synopsis (publisher)

Alice Vega has made a career of finding the missing and vulnerable against a ticking clock, but she's never had a case like that of Zeb Williams, missing for thirty years. It was 1984, and the big Cal-Stanford football game was tied with seconds left on the clock. Zeb Williams grabbed the ball and ran the wrong way, through the marching band, off the field, and out of the stadium. He disappeared into legend, replete with Elvis-like sightings and a cult following.

Zeb's cold trail leads Vega to southern Oregon, where she discovers an anxious community living under siege by a local hate group called the Liberty Boys. As Vega starts digging into the past, the mystery around Zeb's disappearance grows deeper, and the reach of the Liberty Boys grows more disturbing. Everyone has something to hide, and no one can cut to the truth like Alice Vega. But this time, her partner Max Caplan has his own problems at home, and the trouble Vega finds might be too much for her to handle.

Louisa Luna understands suspense, tension, and character like only the best writers in crime fiction do--and she may well write the best interrogations in the genre. Hideout is pure adrenaline and Luna's most intimate thriller yet, a classic cold case wrapped in a timely confrontation with a terrifyingly real network of white supremacists and homegrown terrorists. 

My Take:

Generally I like to read an author's books in order as you know, but this time it was a question of when the library had the books available. So I came to Vega and Caplan "cold", so to speak, and it took a little time to work things out, and become familiar with Alice Vega.

Vega has taken on a case to discover what happened to Zeb Williams when he disappeared thirty years before in unforgettable circumstances. When businessman Anton Fohl asks Vega to take on the case he warns that it is likely to be the biggest case of her career. She is unaware of the Zeb Williams story. Fohl tells her that his wife used to be Williams' girl friend and he had not told her that he was asking Vega to take on the investigation. He gives Vega a photograph taken of Zeb Williams the last time he was recognised in a town in Oregon. Eventually the photo is her starting pointing. Ilona, the town where Zeb was last seen.

From the very beginning people in the town are unwilling to share what they know with Vega. And then she becomes aware that the town has other problems. A Sheriff who rules the roost, secrets that not every one is happy with, and an active white supremacist group that vents its spleen.

Vega has not parted on good terms with her former partner Caplan and is reluctant to involve him in her investigation although she feels a need to tell him what she is doing. Inevitably he is drawn in, although he has his own problems at home.

This certainly is a page turner. Vega does not seem to be able to leave things alone when she senses injustice and abuse, and eventually she draws retribution and punishment from people who dislike her interference.

My rating: 4.6

About the Author
LOUISA LUNA is the author of the Alice Vega novels The Janes and Two Girls Down as well as Brave New Girl and Crooked. She was born and raised in San Francisco and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.

22 July 2023

Review: ZERO DAYS, Ruth Ware

  • this edition available on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BPTHDC36
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster UK (July 6, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 364 pages

Synopsis  (Amazon)

Her husband has been murdered and she’s the only suspect. What should she do?

Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband Gabe are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead.

It soon becomes clear that the police have only one suspect in mind – her.

Jack must go on the run to try and clear her name and to find her husband’s real killer. But who can she trust when everyone she knows could be a suspect? And with the police and the killer after her, can Jack get to the truth before her time runs out?

An adrenaline-fueled thriller from international bestseller and Richard & Judy pick, Ruth Ware, described as ‘one of the best thriller writers around today’ (Independent).

My Take

This is a thriller read of the first order. Jack returns home after what is apparently a routine security job to find her husband Gabe murdered at his desk. At first almost paralysed by grief, she goes off to the police station to answer their questions but then it seems that the police think she has something to do with Gabe's death. So at her second interview Jack decides  to leave the interview and to conduct her own investigation. She contacts her husband's best friend Cole after she discovers her husband has recently made a will.

There's a lot of technical explanation about the software security that Gabe was working on, that the average reader will probably find a bit confusing, but there are elements we will all recognise it from our own experiences. The story is presented as a count down of 8 days after Gabe dies, which helps to heighten the tension. As Jack tries to find out who is behind Gabe's death it seems that the only person Jack can trust is her sister Hel. The police seem to be able to eventually track her down wherever she is  and she is quickly running out of places to go as well as money.

A very good read. Highly recommended..

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

19 July 2023

Review: THE CLOSE, Jane Casey

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local 
  • ISBN: 9780008404987
  • ISBN 10: 0008404984
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • On Sale: 05/07/2023
  • Pages: 416
  • #10 in the Maeve Kerrigan series 
Synopsis (publisher)

At first glance, Jellicoe Close seems to be a perfect suburban street – well-kept houses with pristine lawns, neighbours chatting over garden fences, children playing together.

But there are dark secrets behind the neat front doors, hidden dangers that include a ruthless criminal who will stop at nothing.

It’s up to DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent to uncover the truth. Posing as a couple, they move into the Close, blurring the lines between professional and personal as never before.

And while Maeve and Josh try to gather the evidence they need, they have no idea of the danger they face – because someone in Jellicoe Close has murder on their mind.

My Take

Maeve Kerrigan already has a case on her hands, the murder of a local doctor, found dead in his car in a hospital car park, when her boss makes the request that she work undercover, with him, on case of concern to the Lord Mayor's office.

But Maeve is desperately tired, struggling to recover from a domestic violence case in which she was the victim, and working undercover may bring relief. The situation in which Maeve and Josh find themselves, and the challenges it brings, ring very credible. Keeping the neighbourhood under observation while posing themselves as a loving couple, will provide abnormal challenges. 

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy this series. Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.9

I have read

Maeve Kerrigan series (Fantastic Fiction)

  0.5. Left For Dead (2013)
   1. The Burning (2010)
   2. The Reckoning (2011)
   3. The Last Girl (2012)
   4. The Stranger you Know (2013)
   5. The Kill (2014)
   6. After the Fire (2015)
   7. Let the Dead Speak (2017)
   7.5. One in Custody (2019)
   8. Cruel Acts (2019)
   8.5. Love Lies Bleeding (2019)
   8.6. Silent Kill (2020)
   9. The Cutting Place (2020)
   10. The Close (2023)

17 July 2023

Review: THE DRY, Jane Harper

  • This edition provided by my local library
  • first published 2016 by Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-7435-805-9
  • 339 pages
  • #1 Aaron Falk series

Synopsis (publisher


It hasn't rained in Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the farming community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are discovered shot to death on their property. Everyone assumes Luke Hadler committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for the funerals and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and his childhood friend Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke's death threatens to unearth ...

My Take

I first read this novel 7 years ago. Jane Harper was a new voice on the Australian writing scene and her first novel had instant impact.

Aaron Falk, a Federal Police financial investigator from Melbourne, returns home for the funeral of his childhood friend Luke Hadler who is thought to have killed his wife and young son and then himself. Aaron intends to play a flying visit but agrees to look through the family finances to see if anything there prompted Luke's actions. He meets up with the local policeman and together they undertake an unofficial investigation. Feelings in the town are riding high and there is at least one person who does not want them to unearth the truth.

In the novel sections in italics reveal secrets from the past and Aaron remembers things that he has tried hard to forget. These sections also include narration from other characters.

I am re-reading this novel so that I can discuss it with my U3A Crime Reading Group. In this re-reading I think I have appreciated things that I didn't necessarily see before. The town is gradually being killed off by an ongoing drought, hence the title. This is a common scenario in recent Australian novels (just check some that I've recently reviewed) - I've made a list at the end of this post.

I would normally make a list of discussion questions but there are already plenty around for THE DRY. I have included a couple of batches below.

If you are new to recent Australian crime fiction you really couldn't do better than start here. Jane Harper is a writer to watch.

In our reading group we will be discussing some of those questions and then watching the film starring Eric Bana as Aaron Falk.

My rating: 5.0

My previous review

I have also read

Macmillan Reading Group questions

Another set of questions

  • The novel has a strong sense of place, despite being set in a fictional town. What elements does Harper include to accomplish this? How do the bush, the rock tree, the river, etc. affect the story?
  • Harper has said she is interested in communities where people have known each other—for better or for worse—their entire lives. How does this affect personal relationships? What are the positives and negatives of a small community?
  • Falk describes his group of friends as "teenage tight, where you believe your friends are soul mate and the bonds will last forever." (p. 13) And yet he later wonders why he and Luke were still friends (p. 185). Did the early bonds last? Were the bonds broken because of their personalities, because they grew apart, or because of the lies they told?
  • How does the drought affect the town? The Hadlers? The reader?
  • How did his father’s doubts affect Falk? How do loved one’s doubts affect the people they are close to? Do we see this in other relationships in The Dry?
  • Luke was larger than life. What made people think he was capable of murder?
  • The Dry is a book rife with secrets. What secrets do Luke, Jamie, Ellie, and Gretchen tell? How do those secrets affect their relationships? What do they tell us about the nature of truth?
  • Are some secrets better off kept? What might have changed in The Dry if certain secrets had remained secret? 
  • Do you see archetypal heroes and villains in the characters of The Dry? Are there "good" characters and "bad" characters? What were these characters’ motivations? 
  • Jane Harper has worked as a journalist for 13 years. How did her personal background affect her telling of the story? Does her writing style make the details more or less believable?

Australian novels to check

Review: ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE, Agatha Christie

  • this edition (large print) supplied by my local library
  • first publishd in 1958, this edition 2011
  • HarperLuxe from Harper Collins Publishers
  • ISBN 978-0-06-287968-4
  • 349 pages

Synopsis (Christie.com)

The Argyle family is far from pleased to discover one of its number has been posthumously pardoned for murder – if Jacko Argyle didn’t kill his mother, who did? 

Dr. Arthur Calgary takes a ferry across the Rubicon River to Sunny Point, the home of the Argyle family. Two years before, the matriarch of the family was murdered and a son, Jack, was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. Throughout the trial Jack had maintained his innocence, claiming he was hitchhiking on the night of the murder and he had been picked up by a middle-aged man in a dark car. Unable to locate this mystery man the police viewed Jack’s as a lie. 

Calgary was the stranger in question, but he arrives too late for Jack – who succumbs to pneumonia after serving just six months of his sentence. Feeling a sense of duty to the Argyles, Calgary is surprised when his revelation has a disturbing effect on the family – it means one of the family is a murderer.

My Take

More about the book (from Christie.com)

Two years after Jacko was convicted of the murder of his adopted mother and has died in jail, his alibi steps forward. Dr Calgary had been out of the country during the trial and only heard news of it upon his return. Certain that Jacko was innocent, Dr Calgary takes it upon himself to investigate the past.

A psychological endeavour on Agatha Christie’s part, this story signifies a shift in style from some of her earlier, light works, and focuses largely on conversation, memory and perception, as each sibling suspects each other of the murder of their somewhat eccentric foster mother. The book was dedicated “To Billy Collins with affection and gratitude”. It was he who had convinced Christie to leave her one-sided deal with the Bodley Head, the publishers of her first six books, and to switch to William Collins Sons & Co in 1926. Now known as HarperCollins, they are Agatha Christie's UK and US publishers to this day.

It was first published in 1958 and it was in 1984 that the story was first adapted for film. It starred Donald Sutherland, Faye Dunaway and Christopher Plummer, and featured an interesting soundtrack that is often thought to conflict with the atmosphere of the film. In 2007, the story featured Miss Marple as part of the ITV television series, played by Geraldine McEwan.

In 2018 new TV adaptation of Ordeal by Innocence was broadcast with an all-star cast, including Bill Nighy, Eleanor Tomlinson and Anna Chancellor.

It is 10 years since I last read this and I am re-reading it for my Agatha Christie reading group.
It was chosen for our discussion because it is a stand alone, so we will be following our discussion with the viewing of the 2018 TV adaptation.

We are told in reviews that the book was one of Agatha Christie's own favourite novels, and featured a interpretation of her holiday home, Greenway House. Also that the reason this was not a "Poirot" was that when she wrote this book Christie was free to do whatever she wanted as she was not in any financial need that period and wanted to write something that would be enjoyable for her.
We spend a lot of time (along with the characters) thinking about who the murderer is, and also about the fact that the innocent are suffering too. We are presented with each of the family in turn for assessment. Did you finally guess who it was?

I haven't actually created a list of questions this time, so it will be interesting to see how the discussion goes.
Some suggestion of themes

  • Guilt vs Innocence
  • Why is no-one pleased by Dr. Calgary's assertion of the alibi?
  • Nurture vs Nature - in particular why didn't Rachel Argyle's great "experiment" work?
  • Did Calgary do the right thing? Or should life have gone on with the case unsolved?
    Remember that Calgary's revelations eventually led to  Mary's husband Philip becoming fixated on solving the murder and so there was in fact another murder and an attempted murder. 

Leo Argyle
Rachel Argyle
Mary Durrant
Philip Durrant
Jacko Argyle
Mickey Argyle
Tina Argyle
Hetser Argyle
Kirsten Lindstrom
Gwenda Vaughan
Arthur Calgary

My rating: 4.5

My original review

My list of Agatha Christie books.

Review: THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, Elly Griffiths

  • this edition supplied by my local library
  • published by Quercus UK 2021
  • ISBN 978-1-78747-759-9
  • 337 pages
  • #6 in the Brighton Mysteries

Synopsis (publisher)

An old man lies dead and it looks like poison, but his wife isn't the only one who had reason to kill him.

Brighton, 1965

When theatrical impresario Bert Billington is found dead in his retirement home, no one suspects foul play. But when the postmortem reveals that he was poisoned, suspicion falls on his wife, eccentric ex-Music Hall star Verity Malone.

Frustrated by the police response to Bert's death and determined to prove her innocence, Verity calls in private detective duo Emma Holmes and Sam Collins. This is their first real case, but as luck would have it they have a friend on the inside: Max Mephisto is filming a remake of Dracula, starring Seth Billington, Bert's son. But when they question Max, they feel he isn't telling them the whole story.

Emma and Sam must vie with the police to untangle the case and bring the killer to justice. They're sure the answers must lie in Bert's dark past and in the glamorous, occasionally deadly, days of Music Hall. But the closer they get to the truth, the more danger they find themselves in...

My Take

You'll see from my list below that I have really only dabbled in this series, and it is 5 years since I have read one of them. I found this one a perfectly acceptable read rather than being over the moon with it like I am with the Ruth Galloway series. I think the reason is that I much prefer the Ruth Galloway character (and the setting) to Max Mephisto.

I found the creation of the new PI duo, Emma Holmes and Sam Collins an interesting concept. Emma Holmes is a former policewoman and the wife of Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens. Edgar is a good friend of Max Mephisto (from the war years) and so you can see the relationships are a bit tangled. I thought the sharing of information that goes on between the detecting strands is a bit unrealistic and at times Emma forgets she is no longer a policewoman.

For what its worth, the new duo goes on into the next book in the series THE GREAT DECEIVER.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

The Brighton Mysteries (Fantastic Fiction)

   1. The Zig Zag Girl (2014)
   2. Smoke and Mirrors (2015)
   3. The Blood Card (2016)
   4. The Vanishing Box (2017)
   5. Now You See Them (2019)
   6. The Midnight Hour (2021)
   7. The Great Deceiver (2023)

11 July 2023


  • This book made available as a review copy by NetGalley - an e-book, but it will be available later in the year in hard copy.
  • Pub Date 04 Oct 2023
  • HarperCollins Publishers Australia, HarperCollins

Synopsis (NetGalley)

The world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot – legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and A Haunting in Venice – puts his little grey cells to work solving a baffling Christmas mystery.


It’s 19 December 1931. Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool are called to investigate the murder of a man in the apparent safe haven of a Norfolk hospital ward. Catchpool’s mother, the irrepressible Cynthia, insists that Poirot stays in a crumbling mansion by the coast, so that they can all be together for the festive period while Poirot solves the case. Cynthia’s friend Arnold is soon to be admitted to that same hospital and his wife is convinced he will be the killer’s next victim, though she refuses to explain why.

Poirot has less than a week to solve the crime and prevent more murders, if he is to escape from this nightmare scenario and get home in time for Christmas. Meanwhile, someone else – someone utterly ruthless – also has ideas about what ought to happen to Hercule Poirot . . .

My Take

I think Sophie Hannah has done a good job in re-creating Hercule Poirot, but perhaps Inspector Edward Catchpool is not a good replacement for his old offsider Arthur Hastings.

Catchpool's mother requests Poirot's help in solving one murder and preventing another. The possible second victim is due to be admitted to hospital early in the New Year and to spend his remaining days there. If Poirot can work out who committed the original murder then perhaps her friend Arnold will be safe. There seems to be no reason why the second murder should take place, there is no evident link between the first victim and Arnold, and yet Arnold's wife is convinced the hospital is an unsafe place.

Poirot is confident that the solving of the first murder will take him only a couple of days and that he and Catchpool will be free to return to London in plenty of time for Christmas. However he has not taken Catchpool's mother's determination into account, and the lengths that she will go to. Add to that a mix of very strange and at times unpleasant characters, an inept local police investigator, and something in the past reaching out into the present .....

This is the 5th book by Sophie Hannah in this series, and I recommend that if you are still to give it a try, that you make Hercule Poirot's acquaintance. I doubt that you will be disappointed.

My rating: 4.4

The Hercule Poirot series

  1. The Monogram Murders (2014)
  2. Closed Casket (2016)
  3. The Mystery of Three Quarters (2018)
  4. The Killings at Kingfisher Hill (2020)
  5. Hercule Poirot's Silent Night (2023)

I have already read

4.4, CLOSED CASKET - audio
4.4, THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS - audio book #3
4.4, THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL - audio book #4  

10 July 2023

Review: MURDER IN THE MIND, Bruce Beckham

  • this edition available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • #6 in the DI Skelgill series
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0181DH4BK
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (2 January 2016)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 240 pages  
Synopsis (Amazon)

SUMMONED TO AN ISOLATED maximum-security hospital, DI Skelgill inadvertently catches the eye of a notorious female serial killer. Does she read his censorious thoughts? Is this the trigger that turns a routine investigation into a rollercoaster of murder, mayhem, escapes and hostage taking? And what of the establishment? Are these crises purely coincidental, or is some conspiracy afoot? Could it be blackmail, corruption, a power struggle ... or something altogether more sinister?

In this, the sixth stand-alone Inspector Skelgill mystery, search teams comb the moorland for clues, while the maverick Cumbrian detective finds his mental sinews stretched to their very limit.

My Take

Another outing with Detective Inspector Daniel Skelgill, and another where you learn just a little more about him.

Skelgill agrees to give a prize at the police charity auction of a weekend's fishing which will involve the hooking of a thirty pound pike. The winner is a psychologist at the maximum security prison where he is investigating the theft of some stores. His investigation has already brought him into contact with a convicted serial killer, a former nurse convicted of poisoning a number of patients. And then he discovers some of the others in responsible positions at the facility are not quite squeaky clean either.  

I'm enjoying the varied plots in these not-quite-cozies.

My rating: 4.5

I've already read

6 July 2023

Review: THE STRANGERS WE KNOW, Pip Drysdale

  • This edition an e-book made available on Libby by my local library
  • Originally published 2019
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia (December 2, 2020)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781760854522

Synopsis (publisher)

Imagine seeing your loving husband on a dating app. Now imagine that’s the best thing that happens to you all week …

When Charlie sees a man who is the spitting image of her husband Oliver on a dating app, her heart stops. Her first desperate instinct is to tell herself she must be mistaken – after all, she only caught a glimpse from a distance as her friends laughingly swiped through the men on offer. But no matter how much she tries to push her fears aside, she can’t let it go. Because she took that photo. On their honeymoon.

Suddenly other signs of betrayal start to add up and so Charlie does the only thing she can think of to defend her position – she signs up to the app to catch Oliver in the act.

But Charlie soon discovers that infidelity is the least of her problems. Nothing is as it seems and nobody is who she thinks they are ...

My Take

Another really good read from Pip Drysdale. What I like about Drysdale's books is that just when you think you know where the plot is going, it takes a sharp unexpected twist. 

Charlie's husband Oliver has been careful to not exactly describe for her what his job involves. And he is away a lot. They haven't been married long, but she loves him and trusts him, until she begins to have doubts.

It seems to me that Charlie is too quick to jump to believing the worst about him, and I was quicker to see the truth than she was. But on the other hand, Oliver isn't as squeaky clean, as innocent, as she hopes he is.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read 


3 July 2023


  • this edition published by Isis (large print) in 2023
  • #20 in the Thea Slocombe series
  • ISBN 978-1-39912564-2
  • 306 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

A handsome, if slightly shabby, stone house in Upper Oddington is home to Umberto Kingly, as well as his three dogs, and will be Thea Slocombe's latest house-sitting assignment. Without even a local shop, Thea expects the location to be one of her quietest, until the serene atmosphere is shattered with a fatal hit-and-run.

The ensuing high-profile police investigation plunges Thea deep into the victim's complicated family dynamics and the rift that had already torn it apart. She cannot help wondering if the reverberations of scandal have led to a deliberate and murderous assault.

My Take

I have read two in this series before.

Thea Slocombe generally does house sitting, but this time she is taking on looking after 3 dogs as well, for 5 days, while their owner makes a visit to Europe selling antique clocks.

On the first day she looks out of an upstairs window to see a car pulling up outside in the street. A youngish woman gets out and is almost immediately mown down by a speeding car which not only seems to aim for her but also doesn't stop. Stunned by what she has seen, and convinced that the victim knew the driver of the car, Thea contacts a policewoman whom she knows well from earlier cases that she has been involved.

When it turns out that the victim is the niece of the man she is doing the house sitting for, Thea cooperates with the police to try to discover the reason for the murder. And what a dysfunctional family is revealed!

The plot eventually becomes very complex, and to my mind the author was struggling to hold it all together.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


1 July 2023

Review, MURDER BY MAGIC, Bruce Beckham

  • This edition available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00YF6HR9M
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (May 27, 2015)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 301 pages
  • #5 in the Inspector Skelgill Investigates series 

Synopsis (Amazon)

A SPATE OF VICIOUS ATTACKS upon valuable Herdwick sheep, the sudden disappearance of a foreign hiker, and the unexplained drowning of a woodland hermit – a series of apparently unconnected events – draw Detective Inspector Daniel Skelgill to the white-knuckle passes and isolated dales of deepest Lakeland.

Straws in the wind suggest there is sorcery afoot – and a connection to an equally sinister trade in human traffic – Skelgill and his team risk dire consequences as they strive to infiltrate the secretive ring and expose its evil perpetrators.

In the fifth Inspector Skelgill novel, the maverick British detective faces what is his greatest challenge yet, as he wrestles with an error of judgement that could leave his career – and his life – in tatters.

My Take

I'm enjoying the fact that there are so many in this series (apparently 21 now) to dip into. I am reading them in order as I believe that will give me the best view of character and plot development. 

The action in this one takes Skelgill and his Sergeant Jones travelling to the Ukraine to try to work out why people from there appear to be turning up in Cumbria. That seemed to be a little stretch in credibility but it resulted in some interesting plot lines. 

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


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